Monday 27 June 2011

Colour Vision

Cromer pier

Norfolk beckons me again and by the time you read this post i'll have been there a few days. I can't wait. Time for some well deserved R&R. Last year i was busy as stills photographer on a film and decided not to go. A break was needed but i really did miss having a relaxing project that had no brief.

Shooting for yourself is different from shooting for someone else. It sounds obvious but its true. It's  a different creative process and you have only yourself to please. This year i'll be shooting Norfolk almost entirely in colour - 35mm, 645, 6x6 and digital. 

One or two rolls of FP4 may sneak in but i'll mostly have my colour vision switched on.

Wednesday 22 June 2011

Signal Strength

 The first Russian language issue of Signal - September 1942

The story of identifying Franz Krieger's wartime album, documented on the New York Times website, has been an intriguing one and it reminds me of a rather good book i purchased a few years ago detailing in part the work of German Wehrmacht's 'Propaganda Kompanions' (PK).

Sadly the NY Times articles do not go into that much detail about Krieger's working history or who he was shooting images for, but it is most likely that his photojournalism talents were put to work for Signal, a German military magazine that was published  between 1940-45 and reached a circulation of 2.5 million by 1943. It was the biggest selling magazine in Europe until 1945 and was translated into over 20 languages.

Signal was developed out of the Berliner Illustrierte Zeitung as magazine that promoted Germany as Europe's benefactor and protector. Photography was the main vehicle of its propaganda intentions. It used the human interest story and the photo essay to great effect making it a very popular read across Europe as it reported the string of victories during the early war years. Even the British press were forced to use Signal photographs as no British made images were available. Amazingly Signal had no connections or loyalty to Goebbels propaganda ministry, it was totally under the control of the German Army. There were no civilian war correspondents and notions of journalistic independence did not apply under the command of the Wehrmacht. Photojournalism was seen to be important however, and the Germans used it to great affect.

By comparison, the British were ill-prepared and complacent about propaganda. Even during the war years, experienced photographers like Bert Hardy of the Picture Post were made to take British Army photographer courses. The instructors were often far less experienced than the students and the equipment was virtually antique, Hardy decided to use his own Leicas and did so until they broke. The army refused to have them repaired. Eventually the British set up their own magazine called Parade in 1940 but with a readership of just 100,000 it was never in a position to be a serious competitor with Signal.

The German approach was far different. The Propaganda Kompanions numbered 12,000 strong at one point. A PK was a soldier first and a photographer second. One photograph even shows a PK's Leicas next to a his Luger. Signal's editors actually staked the journalistic authenticity of Signal on the fact that " The photographers are not press photographers in the accepted sense of the word. They are like their comrades, soldiers of fighting units and at the same time soldier war correspondents" As soldiers these correspondents had to follow orders and fight. The portraits of the Russian soldiers (some of them Jewish) captured on the Eastern front may have been partly down to one order of the day to PKs during operation Barbarossa to produce pictures that show clear racial contrasts between the German and Soviet soldiers.

As the war turned against Germany, so did Signal's fortunes. The long retreat in Russia and the lack of new victories in the west forced the magazine in a world of fantasy and make believe. Divisions broke out between the increasingly controlling Propaganda ministry and the Wehrmacht high command. Eventually the magazine resorted to show business articles and old victory stories recycled into new news as the good news ran out.

Saturday 18 June 2011

Glorious Up North

Durham miners, pictured with their ponies (1965) - Photograph by John Bulmer

A rather pleasant discovery for me last week was the work of John Bulmer whose photographs of life in the industrial areas of the west midlands and northern England of forty years ago I just adore.

In many towns across the West Midlands and the North of England during the sixties and seventies, the effects of de-industrialisation marked the end of many industries and the communities that had existed around them for generations. Slowly, over a number of years, the coal face would be replaced with the call centre. The sense of community just fell apart after the glue that held it together was removed.

More of John Bulmer's photography can be found on his website HERE

If you liked that then check out a great gallery of Chris Killip photographs of sea coal harvesters shot the north east of England in 1982 HERE

Thursday 9 June 2011

LIFE's Best Blogs have put together an award list featuring the best photography blogs for 2011. It's certainly a good place to start if you are new to photo blogs or you are looking for a new blog or two to follow.

LIFE's 2011 Best Photo Blog list can be found HERE

I've also put my own growing list of favourite photography websites together on the weblinks section at

Friday 3 June 2011

What Remains

Not many photographers manage to divide my opinion like Sally Mann does. I kinda like some of her work but other bits leave me cold. It seems to depend on what she focuses her camera on.

This HBO/BBC film about her work is rather insightful though and does provide a fascinating 'behind the scenes' look at the artist/photographer at work. I just love her camera!